Sunday, March 22, 2009

Swimming Blind

The history of open water swimming is illuminated with heroic efforts of incredibly inspirational individuals.

King Benny Nawahi is one such swimmer who swam into the annals of Catalina Channel history.

According to the History of the Catalina Channel Since 1927 by Penny Lee Dean, 48-year-old blind King Benny Nawahi (Benjamin Keakahiawa Nawahi) of Hawaii set out from Santa Catalina Island, led by "the tinkle of the bell on the pilot boat" and sandwiched between two lifeguards (George Cole and John Olguin) took turns swimming with him most of the crossing.

Benny was a well-known steel guitarist who toured the country, but he became blind in 1935, although he continue to perform into the 1970s.

In September 1946, Benny began at 9:51 pm from the city of Avalon on Catalina Island. En route to the California mainland, he drank two quarts of soup. In an era long before GPS, his escort boats were guided by a large bonfire on the California shore with over 150 people waiting for his arrival. He walked onshore after a physically exhausting crossing of 22 hours and 20 minutes.

Source: History of the Catalina Channel Since 1927 by Penny Lee Dean.

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